THE MEDIEVAL KNIGHTS OF HISTORY AND OUR IMAGINATIONS
The word "knight" kindles our imaginations and brings to mind a romantic and exotic former way of live, dedicated to finding pure maidens to woo and evil dragons to conquer. Yet the harsh realities of daily living for the knights of earliest history was far from our flights of fancy into the land of King Arthur and Merlin.
Imagine trying to wear forty pounds of chain mail, a helmet that had no air flow, and carrying a sword strapped to your hip and a shield through mostly desert terrain. Now walk thousands of miles over two to three years wearing this getup, hungry and thirsty most of the way while battling enemy warriors who were much better dressed for the occasion. If you have envisioned this or done it, you are beginning to have a glimmer of life on the road during the Crusades!
This does not include the weight or discomfort of the armor worn over the chain mail or the care of horses that were both friend, ride or food for the ones lucky enough to survive the barbaric warriors of battle. Although more knights were lost to the harsher truths of dysentery and infections picked up along the way than fighting, they continued to pour in from all over Europe to protect their Church, their families and their way of life from strange and foreign civilizations . The occupation of a knight was expensive and no one paid the knights for their services. At best, the lucky ones became fiefs to landowners who would exchange military service for land.
Why did they do it? What motivated these heroes of bygone times?
During the middle ages, Europe was besieged with barbaric interlopers, warriors without conscience. Their only concern was to conquer those in front of them and gather up the riches of more advanced civilizations in order to advance their own. How did the Church get involved with stopping the hordes of savage warriors instead of the governments of the time with their military forces?
Unlike the governments of the era, the Catholic Church of the Medieval Age was wealthy and the local church was a point of attack for their ornate gold and silver embellishments. The established Catholic Church had a source of inspiration, one that was well ordered and committed to vows of poverty, chastity and obedience-the monastery and religious orders. The Latin "ordo" which translated into the English "order", meant a closed circle. The "circle" was a protected place in which the members of the circle formed a closed barrier from the evil that surrounded it. These members were bound by vows to be obedient to an established discipline and be bound by accountability to the Church as religious orders.
The first knights were-monks??? Not exactly. During the first of four periods of the Age of Chivalry, the clergy were able to persuade the early feudal warriors to use their excessive need to kill each other into something useful-protect the weak and defenseless. This was called "the Truce of God". These men were then bound by an oaths to the Church in order to shield themselves and their society from the onslaughts of pagan influences and aggression. Combining organized killing and aggression with religion seems to be inharmonious with the teachings of Christ and, since early historical times, the profession of arms and Christianity have appeared to be at odds. Yet the Church’s early doctrines defined the use of arms as permissible under certain conditions. The constant raids on the churches of the Middle Ages, the loss of life of peaceful religious orders and villagers warranted action, according to these doctrines and the clergy reacted to avert more bloodshed and mayhem.
Thus began the Age of the Chivalry and its chief defender, the knight, established by the power of God to hold back the tide of Evil that was threatening to overrun established European civilization of the Eleventh Century. Over the next few centuries, this soldier of God would evolve, being defined by his weapon, horse, flag and attendants, becoming the professional that we so admire.
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